Cardiff five-piece Kids in Glass Houses might have taken their name from a song by New York post-hardcore band Glassjaw, supported the likes of Fall Out Boy, Paramore, and the Used, and graced the front pages of Kerrang! magazine, but more often than not, their anthemic sound owes more to the pop-punk of chart-toppers Busted and McFly than the alternative metal of fellow Welsh outfits Lostprophets, Funeral for a Friend, and Bullet for My Valentine. Indeed, their second album, Dirt, not only includes a guest appearance from the Saturdays' Frankie Sanford, girlfriend of McFly bassist Dougie Poynter, but also features production duties from former A frontman Jason Perry and Romesh Dodangoda, both of whom have worked on various Busted members' solo projects (Matt Willis and Fightstar, respectively). The two separate versions of "Artbreaker," which both open and close their follow-up to 2008's Smart Casual, may focus on crunching guitar riffs, overblown metal solos, and occasional flashes of screamcore, but the rest of its 13 tracks provide the kind of hook-laden and stadium-sized emo-pop choruses that will sit comfortably on the Radio1 playlist for months on end. The gentle '80s-inspired fingerpicking riff, toe-tapping beats, and quiet/loud formula of "Matters at All" sound like the kind of track you'd expect to hear over a montage from an early-noughties American gross-out movie, the first half of "The Morning Afterlife" unexpectedly echoes the lighters-in-the-air boy band balladry of Savage Garden before merging into a string-soaked clenched-fist finale that wouldn't sound out of place on an X Factor winner's single, and their collaboration with former S Club Juniors member Sanford features lyrics rhyming scholar with squalor, an unashamedly corny key change, and pounding drums reminiscent of the Baywatch theme. The likes of "Maybe Tomorrow," which features raucous singalong vocals from New Found Glory, the early Green Day-esque "For Better or Hearse," and the chest-beating antics of "Youngblood (Let It Out)" attempt to offer an antidote to the album's predominantly clean-cut nature, but even they are surrounded by a slightly over-produced pop sheen that does little to boost their hard rock credentials. Kids in Glass Houses may have the "rawk" pedigree behind them, but with lead singer Aled Phillips' Americanized blink-182-influenced nasal vocals and their less than subtle pop influences, Dirt only ever sounds like a pop band trying to impersonate its more credible heroes. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as there are more potential singles here than most of their contemporaries manage in a career, but anyone looking for Wales' next big authentic rock band should look elsewhere.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien